Tomasi and “Robin Rises: Alpha” artist Andy Kubert have spent years working on Damian; Kubert originally fleshed the character out in the pages of Grant Morrison‘s “Batman,” while Tomasi wrote the ten-year-old in “Batman and Robin,” helming the title through the New 52 relaunch. When Morrison ended his “Batman, Inc.” run with the death of the young hero — at the hands of his clone, no less — the DC Universe was left without a Robin. Tomasi’s ongoing title changed to “Batman and …,” teaming the grieving Dark Knight up with various heroes.
However, bringing Damian back was never far from fans or creators’ minds. This year saw Tomasi and Kubert begin the “Robin Rises” arc, pitting Batman against those who stole his son’s corpse with the one-shot “Robin Rises: Omega” and culminating in reviving Robin in last week’s “Batman and Robin” #37 with series artist Patrick Gleason — a twist Tomasi revealed in advance of the big moment.
With the release of the “Alpha” one-shot this week, Kubert and Tomasi spoke with CBR about the decisions to dig up Damian, and beginning a new chapter of “Batman and Robin” with the newly super-powered pre-teen.
CBR News: “Alpha” is ending the “Robin Rises” arc, which has brought back Damian Wayne back to life. Peter you’re the architect of this story and of his adventures in “Batman and Robin” while Andy has worked on him a lot and did that “Damian: Son of Batman” miniseries. Did the discussions of bringing Damian back begin around the time Grant Morrison’s story ended, or did this come up closer to Andy’s Damian one-shot?
Andy Kubert: When I first came over to DC from Marvel, I started on “Batman” with Grant, and we started with Damian there. We were the first ones to do him and work on him, so for me to go from that series to “Batman” #666, then I did the mini after that, years later, then onto bringing him back from the dead with Pete — at that point, he wasn’t the same character. It had been years since I worked on him. He just had so much more dimension to him and he had so many more — I don’t want to say quirks or anything like that, but it was just a different character. It was a different approach for me, and made it that much more fun to work on! [Laughs] It was a whole different ballgame, a whole different character for me, and I had to approach him that way, like a blank slate, and it was a blast to do.
Peter Tomasi: After I left editing at DC, and then I got the book right after Grant, and then the launch of the New 52, it was always — we knew Grant was going to kill Damian at some point, but it got pushed back further and further. Then of course it happened on my watch as a writer with “Batman and Robin!” [Laughs] We knew way ahead of time, which was great, so Pat [Gleason] and I built a story out of that, and of course it played into all the “Robin Rises” stuff I got to launch with Andy, “Robin Rises: Omega,” then right to the finish line with “Robin Rises: Alpha.” It was a long journey, but it was a great journey that we took by exploring the relationship between Batman and Robin, Bruce and Damian, and really digging deep, deeper than probably a lot of things I’ve done before. It’s nice to really target people’s heartstrings and get them invested in these characters, so I’m really happy people have enjoyed the ride.
Damian is an interesting character. I remember when he first appeared, fans were skeptical of him and labeled him the “Bratty Robin,” but as time went on, he became more and more popular, and is now something of a fan favorite. Obviously, this isn’t the first time a Robin has been brought back to life. To your minds, when a character becomes this popular and dies or otherwise goes away, do you, as creators, feel you have an obligation to bring back this character, this part of the Batman mythos?
Tomasi: I don’t know if it was an obligation, per se — it was just a feeling that after he died, there wasn’t much of a longer span of saying, “We’re going to leave this character dead for ten years now.” It was an understanding of the story moving quickly — we didn’t want to drag it out. We waited over a year and a half, two years before returning him back to life — in comic book time, that’s a long time! But it’s the question of — what’s the right word? It’s bringing a character that we knew had a big rollercoaster ride of support and reaction where, like you said, people thought he was a brat at first, but over the years, we’ve built him into a character that people really went from hating him to now loving him and understanding him and respecting him.
At the same time, as people say, you don’t change who you are after five years old. I think there’s a little truth to that. Damian is not going to be Mr. Happy-Smiley all the time now that he’s back. He’s still Damian, and he’s still going to have his shortcomings, just like we all do, and moments of doubt and pain and anger. All that stuff that goes with being a ten-year-old kid.
People perhaps don’t really change from when they’re five, but Damian getting superpowers seem like a pretty big change for him. When you were discussing the storyline and “Alpha,” how did you ultimately want Damian to appear — physically as well as emotionally and mentally — coming back from the dead?
Kubert: Physically, he was going to resemble he way he was before, but with the twist of having superpowers. That presents all kinds of problems, like how are you going to present him with superpowers? How is he going to do this, how is he going to do that? For me, I approached him the way I would as if I were drawing Superboy or something like that. His physical attributes were pretty much going to be the same as when Pat Gleason had done them, but he has all these powers now! [Laughs] It just added another twist to him. It’s just neat to see what he’s going to do with them next.
Tomasi: Yeah. To boil it down to one word, it’s ‘repercussions.’ What were the repercussions of this journey? The major one coming out of it, of course, is him having superpowers, and how Bruce and how Damian himself are going to deal with it.
Talking about repercussions, after “Alpha” you’re right back to work on the “Batman and Robin” ongoing comic. Do you see this not as the end of “Robin Rises” but the beginning of a new chapter and new direction with “Batman and Robin?”
Tomasi: Yeah, it’s sort of all tied together: The “Batman and Robin” book, followed by the “Batman and…” scenario where we had several DC characters coming in, and then going back to “Batman and Robin” with the “Robin Rises: Omega” Andy drew. It’s all sort of one big organic story, one big tapestry that you can step back and look at, so it’s just the chapter. This chapter ends a big journey to a certain degree, and now Damian is back and we’re onto the next chapter of the story as Damian and Batman deal with these new powers and what crazy-ass new stuff is going to happen! [Laughs] Then it goes on!
Peter, you’ve edited Andy’s work before, but this arc has been the first time you two have worked together on this level — how has this collaboration worked out between the two of you?
Kubert: It’s not going to be the last time you see us work together! Right, Pete?
Tomasi: Damn straight! [Laughter] I loved working with Andy as an editor. I mean, some of my best times in the office were when we were working together, having Andy on the phone talking about the script or talking about the covers, which was always a lot of fun. Being able to work with a consummate pro like Andy, such a talented artist, and to be able to be part of the biggest story I’ve been involved with at DC as a writer? It was a privilege, trust me. It was great.
Kubert: When you work with someone who can tailor a script towards your strength, and as soon as you read the script you can visualize it right away, to work with somebody who cares — every writer I work with is the same way, but when you speak on the phone to Pete he’s so passionate and he’s so into it — I’m not going to let him go!
Tomasi: And a pain in the ass!
Kubert: And that’s part of the passion! That’s how I look at it! [Laughter]
Peter, you said this was your biggest story at DC as a writer. Since Damian’s death, people have speculated he would be coming back. How hard was it for you to keep everything under wraps until you released that image of Damian, versus all the other stories you’ve worked on in the Bat offices?
Tomasi: It was tough, because a lot of people assumed Damian was coming back. To me, it’s really about the journey of Damian coming back, not him coming back. That whole rollercoaster was the key to the story for me. But it was tough! Obviously we were able to put that image out, and people reacted so positively — you’re happy that readers are happy. It’s been a great ride, so I’m looking forward to another crazy year of more Batman.
The two of you have worked on Batman and Damian so much over the years — at this point, do you have a favorite part, either from “Alpha” or a favorite Damian moment or story you felt really influenced your work or you pulled from?
Tomasi: I don’t know. That’s tough. For me, as a writer seeing this stuff visualized by a guy like Andy, I just look through every page, and it’s great. From the “Omega” issue, with all the action — every aspect of working with him, especially on a Batman project, is great. It’s a natural fit. He’s my favorite DC character, and to have Andy be a part of it is amazing.
Kubert: You know, I’m just flipping through the issue right now, I have it in front of me, and I can’t pick a favorite moment out. It’s just a rollercoaster. When you look at it as a whole — when I’m drawing the book, I’m just working separate pages. I’m working on a couple of pages at a clip, then you send it to the inker. Here, I’m looking at it as a whole, and you look at it in a whole different light, colored and printed and everything. I can’t pick out a part. It just really worked out well, the whole thing, and that is part of working with a really good writer.
Tomasi: It boils down to one thing for me that’s a lot of fun, and you don’t see this often, so that’s the reason I’m picking it: There’s a shot where Kaliback is literally nose to nose with Bat-Cow. That is comic books in all its glory! [Laughter]
“Robin Rises: Alpha” is available now.
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